On Mapping Mountains, Using a Few Simple Tricks

A-Z 2016 "O"On G+ I saw a map that I quite liked, but there was a mountain range on it that seemed too perfect.

The ridge line of the range was very clean, with a couple sections that were quite straight (and at almost right angles), and another that followed a smooth curve. All three of these ridge lines also seemed to have a consistent elevation, and in fact the same elevation. It stood out and bothered me a bit.

I think there’s room for improvement in this small area (literally small, the mountains in question occupy somewhat less than 1% of the map!). The rest of the map looks better than anything else I’ve done.

This is going to be a graphics-intensive post, so I’m going to break it up a bit, into multiple pages showing how I get to the different permutations below. I’ll start with an artificially horrible set of mountain ranges (triangular gradient):

Linear Mountains, Sawtooth

Linear Mountains, Triangular Gradient

And lead to variations such as shown below.

The following images are all on the same page, briefly showing some variation to address differences coming from the multiplication-adjusted height map, and then going back to the multiplied, displaced version and applying part of the variant process to make the mountains stand out a bit more.

All of the images above started with the same base image and noise layers, and used almost exactly the same techniques. When drawing mountains on a map I apply a few more steps and more sophisticated color gradients, but those are outside the scope of what I’m trying to demonstrate today.

I’ll start by describing the tools used, the common process for the final rendering, the baseline image the others are derived from, then go into the variations and how each was achieved (linked from the end result images above), before my closing comments.

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